By Lisa Copen
My 8-year-old son said it was going to be a boring movie. Afterward, he said it was boring. But during the film he was on the edge of his seat. After we came home, he went outside with his skateboard, and when he came in he wanted to watch videos on Bethany Hamilton’s web site. The next morning, he took a break from video games to listen to every word Bethany said on the Today Show.
“Soul Surfer” is easy to label an inspiring movie. Who wouldn’t? A 13-year-old girl is out on her surfboard when a 14-foot tiger shark takes her arm and then leaves the scene. The rest of the movie we see how Bethany deals with the day-to-day challenges of living with one arm (who knew cutting a tomato could be so difficult?); learning to surf again with one arm; and trying to figure out what God’s plan is for her life.
When the movie “Joni” came out in 1980 I was 14 years old. My sister was 10. We both remember it. Now, all these years later, Rest Ministries is an affiliate of Joni and Friends, Joni’s ministry to those with disabilities. We never know how God works and I shared this with my son before the film.
If you’ve been waiting for an inspirational movie, you won’t be disappointed. There were a few times the tears welled up in my eyes and spilled over. The innocence of a young girl who has the potential to be a world-class surfing champion suddenly has difficulty putting on a swim suit or putting her hair in a pony tail. Bethany Hamilton has courage and spunk, but the film also shows the emotional and spiritual struggles are underneath the smile. A trip to Thailand to help with missionary work after the tsnaumi is what gives her focus and thinking beyond her own limitations.
I highly encourage you to put this on your “must see” list of films. If you can make it to the theaters, do so, as films such as this, with a solid message of faith are rare and I alway love to see them do well at the theaters. If you cannot make it to the theaters, watch for it when it is out on DVD.
As one with a chronic illness, I can say that you will feel compassion for this young gal because you have personally experienced just how hard it is to get out of bed some days and face the world with a smile. When you witness Bethany do it in the film, or see the “real” Bethany interviewed on a television show, you know how VERY hard it is!
For parents who are worried about the dramatic shark scene, I can say that it was a splash with blood in the water, but the shark is not even seen during the attack. I put my hand on my son’s leg and he took it off and said, “I’m okay, mom.”
The acting is great. Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, and Carrie Underwood round out the cast. AnnaSophia Robb was suggested by Bethany to play her and the movie casting agreed. She does a fabulous job. Jack Nicholson’s daughter, Lorraine Nicholson, plays Bethany’s best friend and surfing champion, Alana Blanchard. And Craig T. Nelson rounds out the cast as the surgeon in this small Hawaiian hospital.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and has lived with very active rheumatoid arthritis since age 24 in 1993.